GRADY COUNTY, Okla. - A Grady County jury returned one of the largest wrongful death verdicts in state history last week in the case of an Oklahoma woman who died in a Murray County house fire in 2013.
On March 24, 2013, Kylie Andrews, 19, died when a rental home caught fire while she and four others were sleeping around 6 a.m.
Andrews and one other person, Jess Horstman, 19, were unable to escape the fire. The home did not have a smoke detector.
Tyler Brown, who was able to escape the blaze, testified during the trial that there was no early warning.
Andrews' family claimed that the property was unsafe because it lacked a smoke detector.
Curtis Ozment, a fire investigator with nearly 40 years of experience, testified that Andrews' death was "senseless," and the landlord's failure to provide a smoke detector demonstrated "reckless disregard for human life."
Representatives for the landlord denied any responsibility for the fire claiming the home had a smoke detector, but the tenant removed it. They also blamed the occupants of the home claiming they were partying and drinking the night before.
The jury unanimously found in the plaintiff's favor, and awarded $5 million in compensatory damages and another $3.5 million in punitive damages because the landlord acted in reckless disregard for the victim's rights.
Jeannine White, Andrews' mother, said she hopes the verdict will send a message to landlords that basic fire safety is not optional.
“A simple, low-cost smoke detector would have saved my daughter’s life,” White said. “This case was never about the money. It was about saving lives and making sure no one else suffers the type of devastating pain that my family experiences every day. The verdict warmed our hearts and gave us a degree of closure.”